Five Top Tips for English Language Learners in an International Setting
Marijke Andries, Middle School EAL Program Coordinator
FIVE TOP TIPS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS
IN AN INTERNATIONAL SETTING
English language learners are students whose first language is not English.
- A school needs to have an EAL (English-as-an-Additional Language) framework with criteria that are clear and accessible for the students, teachers, and parents. All students, including English Language Learners, need to feel in control of their learning and the most effective way is by setting simple and clear learning goals based on the chosen EAL framework.
- Although we must differentiate the work for our English Language Learners (ELLs), we must also ensure that their needs are met when it comes to content learning. For this reason, we differentiate by taking out the language, not the content. While English Language Learners are focused on their English language skills, we also need to nurture their mother tongue.
- Research shows that allowing ELLs to use their native language in class helps them acquire English more quickly, and it also gives them a sense of achievement. Yes, they are learning English, but that is because they are already mastering at least one other language. If a student knows the answer, but can only express it in their own language, why not let them say it and then translate it together? Brainstorming in their mother tongue before a writing task allows students to get their ideas on paper. It takes away the pressure of having to find the right word in English. By reading books about science or history topics in their mother tongue, students are helped to transfer their skills from one language to another.
- Every student learns at their own pace. As the research by Cummins shows, it takes a student between five to seven years before they reach academic proficiency. When a student arrives in the UK, their first goal is to master social English. They need to be able to make friends and go to the shop. The academic language will follow in time, but whenever that is, it is important to have open communication between all stakeholders in school.
- Parents need to be involved in the school community. The EAL teacher who organizes informal meetings, for example, gives parents the opportunity to get to know each other and find out what is happening in school. Parents are often overwhelmed by emails sent out by the school and they may feel isolated as English isn’t their first language. If parents are involved in school work and activities, they will be able to support their students at home.